Bereavement Protocol: for those who have lost a loved one

Practice Leads

  • Doctors: Ramesh Mehay
  • Nurse: Jo Young
  • Admin: Lynne Elliot

Date Reviewed

6th July 2016

Date of Next Review

September 2017

This webpage provides information for doctors, nurses and admin staff some guidance on what to do for relatives who have lost a loved one.

For Admin Staff

  1. The first thing to do is to try and identify the health care professional personally involved with the deceased in last few months of their life.  To do this, look back in the patient medical records:  which doctor or other health professional seemed to have most contact with the deceased in the last 3-6 months?  If a single person cannot be identified, then liaise with the doctor to whom the deceased was registered to.
  2. If a request has come through for a death certificate, always ask if a cremation certificate  is required too.   If you are liaising with relatives, please remember to be as sympathetic as you can.  Remember, the relatives have just lost someone they loved dearly - how would you feel?
  3. Assign the death/cremation certificate to the home visit screen and assign the doctor.   If the doctor is not available on the same day, find out whether the certificate can wait until the doctor is next back in the practice.  Clearly, if the doctor is on annual or study leave, the task may need to be assigned to another doctor.  Liaise with the emergency doc for that day.
  4. The death/crem certificate should be 'sorted' within 72 hours of the death - HOWEVER: the earlier, the better.  Try and do your personal best to coordinate all of this so that we do not add to the family's distress.
  5. Pass the deceased person's details onto Christine Serrant.   Christine will email all the doctors to inform them of the death.  She will also produce a 'Sympathy' card from the practice.   This will be signed by the health professional most involved in the last few weeks of the patient's life.
  6. Here is a patient information webpage about bereavement that your can refer family, relatives and friends to:

The Practice Sympathy Card

  1. The envelope should be addressed as follows:  To: the relatives/carers of <NAME OF DECEASED>, <ADDRESS OF DECEASED>, Bradford, <POSTCODE>
  2. Please take extra care in the situation where there is more than one patient on our list with similar names.   Adding the deceased's date of birth (e.g. 21.2.43)  to the top right hand corner of the envelope may help prevent errors.
  3. Place card in envelope, BUT DO NOT SEAL
  4. Place card in doctor pigeon hole for signing.   If the appropriate doctor is not here, see who else has been involved from they surgery - our practice nurse, district nurses, health visitors and so on.
  5. STOCK TAKING: If there are less than 10 empty bereavement cards left in the box, PLEASE inform Pam Brown ASAP (she will arrange for more to be ordered). Order = 50 cards at a time

Doctors & Nurses

 Please sign the card and PRINT your name & position so that the relatives know who you are.  Write a personal comment if you wish (e.g. 'One thing that I will always remember about Agnes is how she could always make me smile') .  Place card back in envelope and seal.  Hand the card back to reception person to be sent off.

You may wish to consider phoning or visiting the relatives - especially if you think that there is a high risk of an abnormal bereavement reaction (see the assessment tools below).  If there is a high risk of this, please remember to discuss this with others - other doctors, the multidisciplinary practice meeting and so on.   If you do decide to visit - on each visit subtly assess for a referral to a specialist bereavement team.